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Office, Outlook, Slack, Handoff: The digital workplace reborn

Galen Gruman | Aug. 19, 2016
Office and Outlook have been reinvented, collaboration tools like Slack are finally useful, and devices are evolving for new digital workflows

Of course, there's more to the digital office than Microsoft. For example, Slack is the tool to beat for group chats. It works very well across platforms, it supports all sorts of useful integrations, and it gives users the ability to keep their conversations truly private when desired -- people need that freedom to truly, honestly work together. Atlassian's HipChat is also good.

The well-known cloud storage services -- Box and Dropbox -- continue to offer capabilities that enterprises will like, and they help keep Microsoft from getting complacent about OneDrive and SharePoint.

Google Drive's strong sharing capabilities, also available from within its very limited Google Apps productivity suite, continue to provide a model of modern collaborative work approaches, pointing the way to how more capable apps like Office and iWork should function for group projects. Too bad Google has continued to limit the core editing features and all but required the use of a web browser.

Collaboration's other side: Handoff and Continuity show the way

Apple's iWork suite once had been the standard bearer for mobile users, but Microsoft has caught up as Apple has stopped trying. Also, Office works on all four major platforms (Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android) whereas iWork runs on only two (MacOS and iOS). Still, Apple has something to offer still: Handoff and Continuity, its suite of technologies that allows apps to work together and work activities to flow from one device to another, in what InfoWorld calls liquid computing.

It's incredibly powerful to be able to text from your Mac, to start an email on your iPhone and finish it on your iPad, and to have your browser bookmarks and passwords stay in sync across all your devices. You'll find some of these concepts implemented elsewhere, but nothing as cohesive as what Apple has. One day, I bet they'll become intrinsic to every major platform and perhaps even across them. It's too useful to fade away.

Wireless protocols like Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth have made it much easier to connect devices to each other ad hoc, and thus let both processes and information flow among them.

You can see these wireless networking protocols used in the new conference-room streaming approaches made possible by the Apple TV and Google Chromecast. The ad hoc wireless network has also killed off the once-emerging mobile docks called lapdocks, like the Motorola Atrix, intended to bridge mobile devices with desktop use; now you can do that with mainly Bluetooth peripherals and a few cables (such as for displays). The wireless federation approach is much better because it's more flexible and thus will support more possible combinations of devices.


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